Shirani Alfreds is an expat mother of two living in Shanghai. She will be writing about her experiences in a regular "Dragon Mama" blog for Urban Family.
Today our 7-year-old went to ‘big school’, meaning another campus. She ‘graduated’ from first grade to second, and was no longer at the cute little early childhood campus just up the road, but at the big faraway campus (okay it's only about 3km further). This one houses all the big kids, from second grade and above, and has the almost-adults too, you know, the giants. I don’t know about her, but I found this to be pretty terrifying. I had to put her on a brand new school bus with all those giants glaring at me given we were slightly late as we weren’t sure where the pick up was. Did they not understand that I felt like she was going to a foreign land?! I mean its big school! She on the other hand, headed for the back row of the bus, parked up next to a friend and waved goodbye.
We then got into a car and followed her.
Yeah…I know, a bit overbearing and weird so I don’t really know why we did this. We are generally not considered to be crazy people and are not helicopter parents (I think). Everyone else waved their second graders goodbye on the bus and headed home as opposed to stalking their child to school. All I can say is that we were slightly anxious, and I cannot explain why. It was just a feeling and the plan had evolved naturally the night before as our daughter had wanted us to take her to school ourselves, but we negotiated by following her bus instead. (In retrospect, I’m not sure which is creepier). We also weren’t sure if she could find her way to the classroom at the big campus. I know, of course she would have found her way, and that was even without me yelling at her and her pal as they got off the bus that they were going the wrong way (which they weren’t... and it took a teacher to gently escort me off the football pitch as I was yelling like a banshee. She informed me that the lower school would be starting off in the cafeteria today - a fact that all second graders appeared to know, but I obviously didn’t). I then decided to leave the big campus as I clearly wasn’t helping.
When I told some friends that I had followed my daughter to school they didn’t bat an eyelid. Totally understandable, slightly batty, but understandable they said. I wouldn’t do this in third grade I said, but they just looked at me.
The incident made me wonder about ‘mommy style’ or rather, parenting style. I attended a parenting course (in little campus) last academic year where they described certain parenting types – laissez faire, militant, helicopter and the ideal type of parent – a loving and logical one. I found myself tending to the laissez faire side with a dose of the militant and love and logic. No helicopters were found anywhere as that takes far too much energy and attention, and I’m actually a pretty lazy parent. So what gives with today’s stalking? All I can say is that perhaps there is really no one ‘style’ of parenting and that it's sometimes just about instincts and what’s happening in the moment. Sometimes you are one type and other occasions call for a different type of parenting. Perhaps I sensed a little of our daughter’s anxiety in requesting for us to be there on her first day of big campus and I helicoptered (okay, stalked). Or maybe, I just really needed to see for myself that she was okay at a big campus before I could justify reverting back to my laissez-faire self. Because today, I did not even walk her to the bus and we kissed goodbye at home.
For more Dragon Mama, click here.